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By Margaret Abraham, Hofstra University
More than 5,000 sociologists from 103 countries participated in the International Sociological Association (ISA) XVII World Congress of Sociology in Gothenburg, Sweden from July 10-17, 2010 (www.isa-sociology.org/). Held every four years in different locations, the World Congress provides a vibrant intellectual and social space for sociologists and social scientists to convene and share their research, exchange ideas, dialogue and debate. This World Congress, with the theme "Sociology on the Move," had five thematic priorities: Violence and War; Sustainability; Worlds of Difference; Action and Imagination; and Religion and Power.
Throughout the seven warm, long Swedish summer days in friendly Gothenburg, sociologists came together at Svenska Mässan (and other venues) to seriously reflect, examine, evaluate, and explore the role of sociology in a changing world. Permeating presentations throughout this Congress was the importance of redefining the sociological contours of our discipline with a greater openness to engage with other disciplines. This was clearly signaled in a presidential panel chaired by Michel Wieviorka, ISA President (2006-2010), which included Nobel Laureate in Chemistry (1986) Yuan-Tseh Lee, as the keynote speaker. Addressing the issue of sustainability, Lee spoke about rethinking what constitutes "development" and of shifting the focus to the problems arising from "over development" of "developed countries" as a major causal factor for problems such as global warming of our planet.
The active presence of sociologists from the United States at this World Congress took multiple forms. While the United States had the largest number of registrants (517), this number should be kept in perspective by underscoring the economic, political, and social factors that limit participation from poorer countries. The Presidential Session of International Scholars included Craig Calhoun, Saskia Sassen, and Jeffrey Alexander. Notably, Alexander’s contributions were recognized with the Mattei Dogan Foundation Prize in Sociology "for his lifetime accomplishments, as a scholar of very high standing in the profession and of outstanding international reputation." Also Stefan Bargheer, the University of Chicago, was a winner of the Fifth Worldwide Competition for Junior Sociologists for his paper, "Toward a Leisure Theory of Value. The Game of Bird-Watching and the Concern for Conservation in Great Britain."
Evelyn Nakano Glenn, 2010 ASA President;
ISA President (2010-14) Michael Burawoy,
University of California-Berkeley; and
2012 ASA President Erik Olin Wright,
University of Wisconsin-Madison
The American Sociological Association has a long history of commitment to international issues and in promoting international cooperation and collaboration. Understanding that the World Congress is an important international venue for U.S. sociologists to share their latest research, exchange ideas and scholarship, and develop collaborations, ASA has sought to provide support through travel grants to enable sociologists at all career stages to participate in an international conference that fosters scientific communication, research, and exchange. In administering this award, the ASA placed great emphasis on encouraging young scholars, minorities, and women to apply for travel support. "The ISA World Congress is a wonderful forum for junior sociologists to become acquainted with international scholars and to develop connections that may lead to future possibilities for collaboration, said Avraham Astor, a doctoral candidate at the University of Michigan and one of 64 recipients of ASA’s travel grants. "The exposure to ideas that ISA facilitates is extremely valuable, especially for young scholars like myself who are seeking to develop new lines of research."
The activities at the World Congress in Sweden also include elections. Every four years during the World Congress delegates from each of the 55 National Associations and 55 Research Committees elect the President and Vice-Presidents and an additional 16 members of the Executive Committee. The elections resulted in a diverse roster, but also included several from the United States: Michael Burawoy was elected as ISA President (2010-2014), Margaret Abraham as Vice-President Research Council, and Jan Marie Fritz as member of the Executive Committee.
In keeping with his commitment to public sociology and building on his experiences from four years serving as the ISA’s Vice-President for National Associations, Burawoy’s election speech focused on "facing the challenges of a global sociology". As ISA president, Burawoy’s concrete agenda for the next four years involves what he calls the 3Ms: Creative use of electronic media, to build a more inclusive and interactive membership, while advancing a global sociological message for all".
Burawoy, University of California-Berkeley, is the fifth U.S. sociologist and second ASA past president to become ISA President. Past ISA presidents from the United States include ISA Founding President Louis Wirth (1949-1952), ASA President (1951) Robert C. Angell (1953-1956), Reuben Hill (1974-1978), and Immanuel Wallerstein (1994-1998).
The next four years holds much promise. I conclude by sharing the perspective of ASA’s past representative to the ISA Val Moghadam (2006-2010): "The World Congress of Sociology is unique in its rich diversity—here are sociologists from across the globe, speaking to urgent policy issues and political debates, expanding theoretical horizons, and addressing methodological questions. The problem, of course, is that there is never enough time to attend all the sessions that one would want. The World Congress is also a time of much politicking, with the election of a new president and executive committee. Personally, I am delighted by the outcome of this year’s elections—a very strong team was chosen, and I look forward to seeing Michael Burawoy’s agenda implemented. Last, but certainly not least, this Congress proved that feminism is alive and well, not only in RC-32. Feminist analysis permeated much of the program, from presidential sessions and plenaries to regular sessions of various research committees. I am confident that the trend will continue".
As your ASA representative for ISA and the ISA Vice-President of Research Council for the next four years, I look forward to seeing many of you at the ISA Forum of Sociology in 2012 and the next XVIII ISA World Congress of Sociology in July 2014 in Yokohama, Japan.Back to Top of Page